Sunday, October 15, 2017

Concord Craft Brewing Concord Craft Brewing podcast Non-Flash version of the podcast

The city of Concord is the capitol of New Hampshire, a state with some noteworthy brewing history. As one of the earliest European settlements in North America, beer was brewed in Portsmouth, N.H. as far back as the 1600s. Brewer Frank Jones of Portsmouth was the largest producer of ale in the all the United States in the late 1800s. Budweiser built it's 8th massive brewery in Merrimack, N.H. in 1970, which is also the summer home of the famed Clydesdales. And, of course, N.H. home to nationally distributed and much acclaimed Smuttynose Brewing.
Concord Craft's co-owner Dennis tends bar.
Throughout the 90s to the present day, both extremely small (Earth Eagle Brewings) and very large (Red Hook Ale) breweries have contributed to the steady growth of brewers in the White Mountain state. Currently there are about 70 breweries in the N.H., with more certainly on the way. One of the earliest pioneers in craft brewing in N.H. is the Portsmouth Brewery established in 1991, forerunner to Smuttynose Brewing. New Hampshire breweries have sprung up in far-north Littleton, in tiny villages such as Canterbury, and have proliferated New Hampshire's seacoast. Yet it took till 2016 for Concord to see it's first post-Prohibition brewery.

Opening in January of 2017, Concord Craft Brewing Company was the second brewery in town, following Lithermans Limited, which opened in April of 2016. While Lithermans is located far from the city center, Concord Craft is right downtown, a short stroll from the Capitol Building, and just a block down the hill from Main Street. When the brewery opened, it was heating the mash and boil kettles with steam supplied from the Concord Steam Corp., which provided steam heat to downtown Concord businesses and government buildings since 1938. That sounds quite anachronistic, but there are other breweries that do the same, such as Toronto's Steam Whistle Brewery.

But the Concord Steam Corp., which is thought to be the last wood burning commercial steam provider to public consumers, had gone bankrupt and closed in May of 2017, making it necessary for the brewery to buy their own boiler to power the brewhouse.
The original Bob W and the (some would say) upgraded model!
(My dad would definitely not say that!)
The brewery was founded by the husband and wife team of Dennis and Beth. Both long time homebrewers and beer aficionados, they knew that the transition from homebrewing to commercial production was serious business. So, to ensure that they were ready for primetime, Beth, who is a full-time brewer for the company, enrolled in courses at the American Brewers Guild (ABG) in Middlebury, VT. They also hired head brewer Doug Bogle who trained at the ABG as well, and got his first commercial experience at River City Brewing in Sacramento, CA. He also put in time at New Helvetia in Sacramento, AB InBev in California, Beer Works in Lowell, MA, Cape Ann Brewing in Gloucester, MA, and Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis, MA.

The 15-barrel brewery is located in a building dating back to the 1860s. Located near where the once vital railroad yards were situated, it was initially the home of the Merrimack Farmers Exchange, a grain store, and served many other uses in its 165 year history. Looking at the stark, thick stone walls and the old timbers, it's clearly a building that was made to last! The brewhouse takes up 1500 sq. ft. of the 3500 sq. ft. facility, with another 1000 sq. ft. used for storage, and 1000 sq. ft. in the front for the bar/tasting room.
Note the hockey stick above the bar. Our kind of place!
Concord Craft is licensed as a nano-brewery, a special brewing license allowing them to make up to 2000 barrels a year. Because they serve a light food menu, they're also allowed to serve the public full pours at their tasting room bar. If they didn't offer food, state law would limit them to 4 ounce pours. Dennis told us that they expect to reach 500 to 600 barrels in their first year, and hope to double that amount in 2018. Three fourths of production is sold to outside accounts, mainly in kegs, but they also do limited canning runs of 16 ounce cans as well. They're currently served on draught in about 50 restaurants and bars and the cans are available at roughly 20 retail outlets in N.H. They don't have plans to sell outside of the state just yet. So, if you want to try their well crafted brews, you'll need to get yourself to the Granite State!
Original stone and timbers from the 1860s.

The next generation for Concord Craft.
Sophie, an aspiring hockey star, is at home in the cold room.
Non-FDA approved ingredient!
Some of the breweries at a recent NH Brewers Fest.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Godspeed Brewery Godspeed Brewery podcast Non-Flash version of the podcast

Luc "Bim" Lafontaine, a native of Gatineau, Quebec, worked his way up from apprentice to head brewer at the Dieu du Ciel brewpub in Montréal, where he crafted incredibly interesting and technically excellent beers for about twelve years. Eventually, the dream of owning his own brewery became irresistible. So, in 2012 he opened up a new brewery just outside of Tokyo, Japan, where is wife Kuramasu is from. It was called Ushitora (cow tiger) for the horoscope animals of him and wife.

Ramon serving the beer at Proletariate, with Luc and B.R.
But before long, business complications (it's not so easy to operate a small brewery in Japan) made him look back towards home, to try again there. Thus was conceived Luc's Godspeed Brewery in Toronto (not quite Gatineau)! The brewery auspiciously opened to the public on Canada Day, July 1, 2017. It's located east of downtown at 242 Coxwell Ave. in the Greenwood-Coxwell neighborhood of Toronto, near Little India and the Upper Beaches neighborhoods. It's four blocks from Lake Ontario, right by the Coxwell Ave. stop on the 306 streetcar line, and walking distance from the Coxwell station on the 2-line subway.

Kim at Brouwerij Lane between Luc and Jason
On a recent trip to New York with his fellow brewery owner Jason Fisher, we got to hang out and talk with both brewers. Justin's Indie Ale House is located at 2876 Dundas St. West at Keele St., in The Junction neighborhood. It's on the other side of town from Godspeed, by the Keele station on the 2-line, 18 stops west of GodspeedGodspeed is a brewpub with a full food menu, and licensed to sell beer retail to the public.
At Spuyten Duyvil with Jason, Luc, Cory (Beer Street),
Alex (Spuyten Duyvil), and B.R.
We're most definitely going to visit Toronto soon to check out Luc's Godspeed Brewery, Jason's Indie Ale House, and all the other interesting beer developments in the old T-Dot.

The Godspeed crew

The flagship beer is a Dortmunder style


Kim pours some Suarez Family Merkel

Godspeed Brewery

Luc and BR in NYC's Fur District

Matt and Paul of Spuyten Duyvil

The raw space before Godspeed was built

Friday, September 15, 2017

Lithermans Limited Lithermans Limited podcast Non-Flash version of the podcast

Lithermans Limited opened in April of 2016 in a somewhat industrial looking commercial complex by the lovely Merrimack River in New Hampshire's capitol, Concord, spitting distance from Bow, NH, the hometown of Beer Hear co-writer Bob. It's about a half mile from the intersection of two interstate highways, Rt. 93 and Rt. 89. It looks a lot like the complex where Smuttynose began in Portsmouth. By the way, if you're curious about the name...

Brewing partners Michael Hauptly-Pierce and Stephen Bradbury met around 2002 when Michael was a manager at Home Depot and Stephen was one of his customers. They connected over music, jamming and recording some tunes, and eventually Stephen introduced Michael to homebrewing. They then went from jam buddies to brew pals, and it wasn't long before they pondered the idea of making it more than a hobby.
Brewers Michael and Stephen, and bartender Jen
Michael explained that small breweries in New Hampshire have a lot of advantages, such as being allowed to self distribute, sell samples to the public at their breweries, and sell beer at their brewery to the public to go, among other benefits. With a 3-barrel brewhouse in their 1500 square foot space, Lithermans most certainly qualifies as small! But the size of their brewhouse means that variety wins out over quantity. In their first year, they brewed about 70 different recipes. On the day we visited, they had just tapped an IPA, which was dry hopped with hops grown in Michael's yard. It was only 8 gallons, or about a quarter barrel.


We tried the "Misguided Angel", a hazy New England style IPA with a clean, assertive bitterness, which is one of the most popular in the current line up. Another popular IPA, the "Bow Wow Yippie Yo IPA", wasn't overly bitter and had a slight sweet malt note mixing with the hops. Their "This Is How We Guit!" had a murky light brown color with a faint sour note in the nose and mild sourness in the flavor, mixing with a light herbaceous note. The sour peach ale had a delicate peach aroma, a light body, tangy fruit flavor, and was mildly sour with a bit of a cereal grain note. The "Back 40 to Freedom" wet hopped rustic IPA had a most unusual hop quality, hinting at an almost pickle-like note in the flavor. The "Raspberry Beret" had a pale straw color, a faint fruit nose, and assertive bitterness over a gentle raspberry flavor.
Many of the bar stools have 7" records polyurethaned to them 
The brewery has a strong local following. They sell beer to accounts mainly between Concord and Manchester, where you can find it often on tap at good beer bars like True Brew Barista, and only within New Hampshire. Their cosy tasting room bar is often packed to capacity. They're open from 4pm to 7pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and from noon to 5pm on Saturdays, offering 8 or more different brews on tap, as well as cans and bottles, and a light food menu.
They're currently working on expanding the tasting room capacity to about 100 people, as well as upping the brewing capacity with the addition of two 7-barrel conical fermentors and a 7-barrel uni-tank which can be used as a fermentor or a bright tank. Currently brewing 6-7 barrels a week in two brewing sessions, they're planning on going to 3 sessions a week doing double batches to fill the new fermentors. The next step will be to upgrade the brewhouse to a 7-barrel system. That will be a bit easier as they increase their size to 3,000 square feet.
Their brewery utilizes an electric brewhouse, but they'll likely need to switch to a gas fired system if they want to get larger than 7 barrels. And it's not out of the question that it'll happen in a brewing facility that they own sometime down the road. Given their growth and their loyal customer base, maybe it could happen sometime soon!


The expanded brewhouse build out
Looking into the current brewhouse

Improvised beer garden

And while in New Hampshire...
BR de tracteur at the Hopkinton State Fair
The biggest pumpkin in NH, along with BR and the original BobW